Ryan Byrne/INPHO Sean Bugler pulls the trigger for his second-half goal.
Bugler the best version of himself in Dublin's Leinster final landslide
The St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh man finished a huge shift with 1-3.

FOUR SHOTS. THREE points from play in the first half. A sublime goal in the second.

Sean Bugler was a standout performer for Dublin in their 13th consecutive Leinster final win yesterday.

But it was about much more than his 1-3 haul as Dessie Farrell’s side demolished Louth.

Often operating under the radar and unheralded at times, the St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh half-forward excelled across the board throughout an immense shift.

This was a real Man of the Match performance, with 24 possessions and much more to marvel at away from the stats.

“Sean is a young and up-and-coming player,” Farrell said afterwards. “He’s very committed. He has plenty of football, he’s a good athlete. He’s definitely an important part of our squad and his performances thus far this season have reflected that.”

That Bugler, at 25, is just now becoming an established name shows how long some rising stars in the capital must wait for their breakthrough and the level of work and patience required through the ranks.

An U21 All-Ireland and Leinster winner in 2017, he made his senior debut against Galway in the National League two years later.

Yesterday’s Leinster medal goes into the cabinet along with four other provincial ones, a league honour and the all-important Celtic Crosses from ’19 and ’20.

He was turned over by Ciarán Murphy with his first involvement yesterday, having been swarmed by three Louth players after fumbling a low kick-pass from Davy Byrne. A couple of minutes later, as Dublin worked through their teething problems in a scatty opening, he robbed Niall Sharkey from a line ball and popped it off to Ciarán Kilkenny. Amends made, that link-up was one we’d see over and over.

sean-bugler-lifts-the-sam-maguire Ryan Byrne / INPHO Bugler lifting the Sam Maguire in 2020. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Bugler raised his first white flag of the day in the 12th minute, making it 0-2 a-piece. Jack McCaffrey found Cormac Costello, who laid it off to the on-rushing number 11. He barged by Peter Lynch and kicked off his left into the Canal End. His non-dominant foot, as pointed out by Eamonn Fitzmaurice on The Sunday Game.

The sides would trade scores once more before Dublin took off. They hit 1-10 without reply, squeezing the life out of Louth by aggressively pressing their kickout.

Bugler started that sequence with his second point on 16 minutes. A kick pass from fly-goalkeeper James Califf went astray around the middle with Kilkenny the man to pounce. A trademark Dublin break followed: Brian Howard carried at pace and played the ball to Bugler, who smashed over with his right boot. The goal was probably on — Costello inside certainly thought so — but more heads-up football would follow.

Bugler won plenty of breaking ball and was always an option, all the while creating space and making important dummy runs — and other more direct ones, of course. He hassled and harried, and established himself as a real link-up player.

One-two. Give and go.


His third point was a beauty before the half-hour mark. Bugler was the out-ball on the edge of the D when Dublin won a throw-up on the ’21, and he floated over with his left. That brought his first-half tally to 0-3, eclipsing the sole points he grabbed against Laois and Kildare.

“Sean Bugler’s work-rate has been incredible. The amount of tackles he’s put in has been unbelievable,” Fitzmaurice said on co-commentary at the start of the second period.

The former Kerry manager later added: “He’s been excellent on the ball but I’ve been so taken with how hard he’s worked for the team as well. He’s put in some amount of tackles.”

That wasn’t the only praise coming from the Kingdom. Paul Galvin lauded his quality on Twitter, noting his ”potential to be the next top half forward in the country”.

Alan Brogan is listed as Bugler’s childhood sporting hero on the Dublin GAA website, and yesterday’s display was reminiscent of his clubmate.

Scoring and, perhaps more importantly, creating. He was heavily involved in several other offerings, playing the final pass before McCaffrey and Kilkenny split the posts in either half. He also showed lovely footwork at one point; a back-heel and pick-up, coming to the rescue of Paddy Small when he was dispossessed.

His top moment of the day, though, was his 56th-minute goal. Almost single-handedly, he tore the Louth defence apart. Dublin won Califf’s kickout, Bugler got on the ball and turned on the speed, playing a one-two with Kilkenny and sending a left-footed rocket into the back of the net. The scoreboard read 3-17 to 0-10 as he wheeled away.

He was the orchestrator, of sorts, of their fourth goal. It was another sharp move: one-two with McCarthy and a pass to Cian Murphy, who laid it off to Lee Gannon, only for him to ricochet off the crossbar and Small to scramble home in the dying embers of normal time.

A fifth followed, leaving the scoreline 5-21 to 0-15, and there very nearly could have been another for Bugler in injury time. If the ball had been moved quicker or had Dean Rock squared it, rather than fist over in anger himself, his personal haul may well have been 2-6.

He appeared frustrated by that, but that had all faded as Dublin lifted the Delaney Cup and Bugler headed home with the Man of the Match accolade.

Asked in his TV interview with RTÉ what has gone into days like yesterday and performances like that, his answer said it all.

“Extra sessions, listening to the coaches, always trying to develop both defensively and offensively, and just trying to give the best version of myself on the pitch and training field.”

The best version of himself on the pitch. Sean Bugler was just that yesterday.

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